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Testimony that conflicted with a statement given by a woman allegedly kidnapped over bringing shame to the Muslim community became the focus Tuesday in the trial of the woman accused of taking her.
Norma Juárez Taha is charged with kidnapping a woman, who was 20 years old at the time, from the alleged victim’s bedroom at about 3 a.m. Feb. 13, 2017, and taking her to Juárez.
The woman allegedly was kidnapped because her “lifestyle brought shame to the Muslim community and she should return to Libya,” according to court documents.
The woman is only identified as AFA in court documents.
Taha, who was 35 years old at the time of the incident, is facing one count each of kidnapping and penalties for firearms, which means she illegally had a gun. Her trial began last week in federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Frank Montalvo.
FBI El Paso Division Special Agent Miguel Sandoval, who was the lead agent in the case, testified Tuesday about the agency’s investigation.
He also was questioned about discrepancies in AFA’s testimony earlier in the trial compared to the statements she gave to agents immediately after the incident.
Sandoval testified that AFA told him during the investigation that there was tension between her and her parents. The tension was over three arranged marriages her family tried to get her to fulfill, which she refused.
She also allegedly told Sandoval that her parents were abusive.
Taha went to AFA’s house, grabbed her in bed and attempted to put duct tape over her mouth, according to court documents.
Documents state that a glass window next to AFA’s bed was broken, with pieces of glass on the windowsill area.
Taha told AFA that she was bringing shame to her family and her actions placed her family in danger, Sandoval said.
He added that he believed Taha used mental and emotional tactics to make AFA leave with her. The tactics included claiming that Taha’s family was in danger.
Defense lawyer Shane McMahon focused on discrepancies in AFA’s testimony, her actions during the alleged kidnapping and the allegations that Taha used duct tape on her.
AFA told investigators that Taha allegedly told her she was going to inject her with a syringe with medicine to calm her down, Sandoval testified. However, McMahon said that AFA testified that she never knew she was going to be injected and was surprised when they injected her with an unknown medication.
During the alleged kidnapping, AFA texted her boyfriend and never attempted to flee, McMahon said.
AFA allegedly tried to call her boyfriend, but he did not answer. She then texted him, telling him not to worry and that she was OK.
Sandoval testified that the investigation never found evidence that Taha forced AFA to text her boyfriend.
McMahon also asked Sandoval about why AFA never fled or tried to get help if the FBI’s investigation showed she had plenty of opportunities, including screaming or flagging down cars while they were driving in Taha’s car.
Another woman, who is only identified as a Hispanic woman in court documents, eventually drove AFA across the border into Mexico. The alleged victim had gotten into the Hispanic woman’s vehicle after being taken to a trailer home.
According to testimony, the woman went to an ATM machine and left AFA alone in the car for several minutes. McMahon said that AFA never attempted to flee when she was by herself.
Sandoval agreed that AFA never attempted to get help or flee during the alleged kidnapping.
Another key argument made by McMahon was AFA’s allegation that Taha placed gray duct tape on her mouth during the kidnapping.
According to McMahon, AFA told investigators that Taha placed gray duct tape on her, but testified that she never told agents that Taha used gray duct tape.
Sandoval testified that agents found several tapes, including gray duct tape, at Taha’s home and in the Hispanic woman’s car, but investigators never were able to prove if any of the duct tapes were used in the kidnapping.
AFA eventually was taken to a home in Juárez, but people at the home later dropped her off at the Stanton Street Port of Entry just after midnight Feb. 14, 2017.
Testimony continued Tuesday afternoon, with the trial expected to resume Wednesday morning.
Aaron Martinez may be reached at 546-6249; firstname.lastname@example.org; @AMartinez31 on Twitter.
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